citrus blossom 02 This time of the year is one of my favourite – everything comes alive, and there’s no place more alive at the moment than our citrus grove.

Located on the northern side of our property, and bathed in sun all day long, the grove contains 12 mature citrus, being a mix of oranges, mandarins and a lemon. We will be augmenting this extensively in the coming year by extending the orchard into the adjoining paddock, but at the moment these dozen trees provide us and the local wildlife with more than enough citrus fruit.

These easy to grow small trees generally provide fruit through the cooler parts of the year, and given their high vitamin C content, and it’s use in the prevention of colds and flu, the winter bounty they provide is timely. However, by planting a range of different cultivars within each species, you can lengthen your harvest period extensively. For expert advice, you should contact your local nursery or fruit tree supplier.

Once the trees have surrendered their bounty, it’s time for a quick
trim to remove any dead or damaged branches. All fruit trees benefit
from good air circulation, so try and keep an open framework of
branches where possible, and remove all crossing and rubbing branches.
This is also the best time to apply any organic based all purpose
sprays to the trees, particularly those that will remove any
over-wintering pests like scale or other sap sucking insects that may
be dormant through the cooler part of the year.

After that work
is complete, the other best practice to follow is a good application of
well rotted manure to each tree, as citrus are known as heavy feeders.
Follow this up with a liberal application of mulch, which has two
specific benefits, one being weed suppression around the base of the
trees, as citrus dislike competition, and the other is moisture
retention, as citrus are shallow rooted plants, and the layer of mulch
will ensure their roots stay moist and at an even temperature.Cordial   marmalade 2008 02

Now
all that is required is a regular supply of water, and if Mother Nature
doesn’t oblige, then irrigate deeply once each week, rather than more
frequent light watering.

Early spring will see your trees awash
with the white creamy blooms that provide a wonderful deep perfume
through the air, attracting the bees to do that most vital task that
only they can perform.

Towards the end of summer, a second
application of fertiliser by way of more rotted manure will prove
beneficial, and top up the mulch again as well. When applying the
mulch, and this goes for all situations, ensure that the trunk at the
base of each tree is kept clear of mulch, as if this is not followed,
collar rot can develop, leading to the death of the tree.

By
late autumn, the yellow and orange bounty will become visible, and the
branches will droop with the extra weight that the crop contains. At
this time you begin to look for recipes to use your harvest in – here
at Near River we’ve bottled lemon and orange cordial, created a few
jars of preserved lemons, cooked up a batch of marmalade and even
swapped a few bags of lemons for limes with our neighbours.

So
ensure you have at least one or two of these great small trees in your
garden – you can even grow them in large tubs on balconies – and then
plug in the juicer for a regular supply of sweet orange juice with a
dash of lemon.

Near River Produce - Real food direct from our farm located on the NSW Mid North Coast